Hands-onThe Thing

Check out our impressions of this adaptation of John Carpenter's film from 1982.

Universal Interactive showed off an extremely impressive early build of The Thing for the PlayStation 2. Developed by London-based Computer Artworks, the game takes place shortly after the events seen in John Carpenter's 1982 remake of the sci-fi classic. You'll take the role of a member of a military rescue team sent to investigate the disappearance of the scientific expedition seen in the film, and you'll explore the film's areas and shape-shifting creatures.

While The Thing's premise would seem to lend itself to a straight survival horror game, Computer Artworks is aiming to offer a bit more than a Resident Evil rehash. You take control of a single character, but you won't actually be alone much of the game. The Thing will marry squad-based gameplay with elements of survival horror games. You'll encounter other characters who will have the opportunity to join your team, allowing for a squad of up to four players. The game will offer three character "types" to include in your squad, including medics, engineers, and soldiers, each with self-explanatory skills that are essential to progressing through the game. The catch in building a squad and interacting with other characters is that you will never be entirely sure if your companions are human or alien. The sense of mistrust that fuels is further heightened by the fact that the computer-controlled characters will react the same way.

To manage all the ensuing paranoia, the game will feature a "trust" meter that lets you gauge how other characters feel. Managing the squad's trust is essential to successfully making it through the game. If a player's squad has low trust, then it is less likely to follow orders and provide support. In addition, characters may start to panic if they are too nervous about a situation or their surroundings. You will be able to manage the squad members' emotions by providing them with weapons to protect themselves and helping them if they need it. Blood-testing items can detect characters who are alien shape shifters in disguise, but the blood tests will also serve as a catch-22 if an identified alien chooses to go on a rampage.

We checked out some of the areas in the game, both indoor and outdoor, and got a feel for how the game will play. You explore the game from a third-person perspective, and you manage your squad and items via menus that enable you to give members items like ammunition to appease them. Combat sequences call up an aiming reticule and lets you target enemies. It's possible to hold an item and shoot a weapon as well, but the trade-off is that your accuracy is significantly reduced. In addition, your squad will help you in a fight only if its trust is at a certain level.

Graphically, The Thing is a gorgeous title on the PlayStation 2, showcasing a level of polish that shows off its long development cycle. The game features extremely clean and detailed textures, as well as lighting and particle effects that are extremely well done. Environmental effects such as snow and breath from character's mouths when they venture outside are well done. An onscreen "endurance meter" tracks how long you can be exposed to the elements before taking damage.

So far, The Thing is looking very good and looks to offer some intriguing gameplay elements. The game is currently slated for release on the PS2, PC, and Xbox this fall. Look for more on the game in the near future.

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